Beth Smart, a 2005 graduate of the BSc Occupational Therapy
course at the School of Allied Health Professions, returned to the UEA today to talk to the class of 2010 about her experiences as an Occupational Therapist in Cambodia.
Beth spoke to students and her former lecturers about her sixth month attachment in south-east Asia working with ‘Handicap International’. Her role in Cambodia was to review a cerebral palsy project with a particular view to staff training. Much of her time was spent in the region of Takeo, a remote and very under-developed area of the country.
Beth said, “Working in Cambodia was a fantastic and challenging experience. Not only was I working through an interpreter, but I was working in a health service where occupational therapy simply does not exist as a profession. I lived and worked in really basic conditions - but it was very rewarding teaching occupational therapy in its purist form such as functional skills and problem solving. It took time to be accepted, not only as an OT, but as a women in a male dominated culture! But once I was able to show my OT skills and the value they could bring, I began to gain the respect of local health providers and they were very interested in what OT could do.”
Beth continued, “It was great to be back at the UEA today – although a bit strange seeing my former lecturers in the front row of the audience! I loved my time here and really appreciate the quality of the course – particular now that I’m practicing. It’s a very special place; I have a UEA placement student working with me now and somehow they seem to have something extra about them.”
Following graduation, Beth did her band 5 rotation in Tower Hamlets in paediatrics, amputee rehabilitation, elderly care and in Learning Disabilities. She is now working as a Specialist Paediatric OT in Harrow, and will soon go to Vietnam on another NGO attachment.
Jill Jepson, Course Director for BSc Occupational Therapy
, said, “It was great to see Beth back here today. It was really good for all of us, staff and students alike to hear her story - it was very inspiring and I think the students in particular could see the world of opportunities in front of them and that they now have the potential and skills to make a difference to people’s lives.”
Jill Jepson and colleagues are working with UEA Alumni Association to develop an on-line network for UEA OT alumni which will not only offer an opportunity to keep up with old friends, but will share and highlight opportunities and developments in OT.